When the term design is used in mobile business intelligence (BI), it often refers to the user interface (UI). However, when I consider the question of design in developing a mobile BI strategy, I go beyond what a report or dashboard looks like.
As I wrote in “Mobile BI” Doesn’t Mean “Mobile-Enabled Reports,” when designing a mobile BI solution, we need to consider all facets of user interactions and take a holistic approach in dealing with all aspects of the user experience. Here are three areas of design to consider when developing a mobile BI strategy.
How Should the Mobile BI Assets Be Delivered?
In BI, we typically consider three options for the delivery of assets: push, pull, and hybrid. The basic concept of a “push” strategy is similar to ordering a pizza for home delivery. The “users” passively receive the pizza when it’s delivered, and there’s nothing more that they need to actively do in order to enjoy it (ok, maybe they have to pay for it and tip the driver). Similarly, when users access a report with the push strategy, whether through regular e-mail or mobile BI app, it’s no different than viewing an e-mail message from a colleague.
On the other hand, to have pizza with the pull strategy, users need to get into their cars and drive to the pizza place. They must take action and “retrieve the asset.” Likewise, users need to take action to “pull” the latest report and/or data, whether they log on using the app or mobile browser. The hybrid approach employs a combination of both the push and pull methods.
Selecting the right delivery system for the right role is critical. For example, the push method may be more valuable for executives and sales teams, who travel frequently and may be short on time. However, data updates are less frequent with the push method, so accessing the latest data can’t be critical if you choose this option. In contrast, the “pull” strategy may be more appropriate for analysts and customer service teams, who depend on the latest data.
Additional considerations include data security and enterprise mobility. Does the current BI solution or software support both options? Can the integrity of data security be maintained if data assets are delivered outside the demarcation lines (for example, mobile BI report delivered as an attachment to an e-mail)?
What Are the Format and Functionality of the Mobile BI Assets?
The format deals with the type and category of the asset that is delivered to mobile BI users. What does the end-user receive? Is it a static file in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Excel format with self-contained data, or is it dynamic such as a mobile BI app that employs native device functionality? Is the format limited to data consumption, or does it allow for interactions such as “what-if” scenarios or database write-back capability?
If the format supports exploration, what can I do with it? Can I select different data elements at run time as well as different visualization formats? How to I select different values to filter the result sets, like prompts? Does the format support offline viewing? Is the format conducive to collaboration?
Does the User Interface Optimize the BI Elements?
The UI represents the typical BI elements that are displayed on the screen: page layout, menus, action buttons, orientation, and so on. When you consider the design, decide if the elements really add value or if they’re just pointless visualizations like empty calories in a diet. You want to include just the “meat” of your assets in the UI. More often than not, a simple table with the right highlighting or alerts can do a better job than a colorful pie chart or bar graph.
In addition, the UI covers the navigation among different pages and/or components of a BI asset or package. How do the users navigate from one section to another on a dashboard?
Bottom Line: Design Is Key for the User Experience
The end-to-end mobile BI user experience is a critical component that requires a carefully thought-out design that includes not only soft elements (such as an inviting and engaging UI), but also hard elements (such as the optimal format for the right role and for the right device). Designing the right solution is both art and science.
The technical solution needs to be built and delivered based on specifications and following best practices – that’s the science part. How we go about it? That’s completely art. It requires both ingenuity and critical thinking, since not all components of design come with hard-and-fast rules that we can rely on.
What other facets of the mobile BI user experience do you include in your design considerations?
Stay tuned for my next blog in the Mobile BI Strategy series
This story originally appeared on the SAP Analytics Blog.